Breaking the U.S.-China Suicide Pact

William Chandler, director of the Carnegie Energy and Climate Program, has borrowed my phrase for the title of his new study– “Breaking the Suicide Pact: U.S.-China Cooperation on Climate Change.” It begins:

Together, China and the United States produce 40 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Their actions to curb or expand energy consumption will determine whether efforts to stop global climate change succeed or fail. If these two nations act to curb emissions, the rest of the world can more easily coalesce on a global plan. If either fails to act, the mitigation strategies adopted by the rest of the world will fall far short of averting disaster for large parts of the earth.

These two nations are now joined in what energy analyst Joe Romm has aptly called “a mutual suicide pact.” American leaders point to emissions growth in China and demand that Chinese leaders take responsibility for climate change. Chinese leaders counter that American per capita greenhouse gas emissions are five times theirs and say, “You created this problem, you do something about it.”

Great factoid from the report:

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the United States has produced 1,150 billion tons of carbon from fossil fuels, compared to China’s 310 billion tons.

Key Recommendations for U.S.-China Cooperation:

  • Eliminate subsidies that discourage energy efficiency.
  • Provide tax breaks for investment in efficiency and low-carbon energy and impose tax penalties on high-carbon energy.
  • Make climate cooperation integral to trade policy, such as jointly setting production standards to limit the energy used to manufacture exports.
  • Create partnerships between Chinese provincial officials and leaders in U.S. states on the forefront of climate change prevention to improve implementation of innovative energy policies.
  • Promote market penetration of existing carbon emission reduction technologies and encourage development of new technologies by linking American laboratories more closely to Chinese markets to share research and development costs.
  • Encourage banks in China to remove the regulatory cap on interest rates for energy-efficiency investments.

Definitely worth a read for those interested in the vexing suicide pact.

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4 Responses to Breaking the U.S.-China Suicide Pact

  1. Ken Levenson says:

    Also see:

    which notes a new study quantifying how much China has turbo charged their sprint to the cliff’s edge over the last few years – building on the story lines in the additional reading list above.

    I blogged on it here:

  2. David B. Benson says:

    All in favor of charging custons duties based on fossil energy intensity.

    All countries.

  3. john says:


    Count me in … Of course, we have to get our own house in order first … wouldn’t fair too well if we tried while we still produced more than 2X the carbon per person as the rest of the developed world.

  4. David B. Benson says:

    john — Don’t wait. Exporting industries will quickly get the idea and produce low energy intensive goods.